SUMMARY OF
NEW NOISE REGULATIONS (VICTORIA)
JANUARY 2004

As you may be aware, the new noise regulations came into force at the end of January 2004. There are a few small changes, but really nothing huge. As a guide, here is a (very concise) summary. The regulations include, but are of course not limited to, the following items.

Allowable limits.
Still 85 dB averaged over 8 hours. The 140 dB peak has changed to 140 dB (C). This actually represents very little change, but now brings it into line with the national standard.

Noise testing:
Still every 5 years, with a new noise assessment if anything changes that could affect the employees’ noise exposure. It is important that the employee noise exposure is known, not just the noise levels in the facility. This is done by the wearing of personal noise dose meters.

One change is that there is no longer a requirement for a full and formal "written control plan". However, the details of any noise assessment and any action detailed for same must be recorded. Written documentation and records are still required, and recommended.

The requirements for reducing employee noise exposure by substituting quieter plant / equipment, engineering controls, administrative controls, and then by hearing protection are still in place ( in that order).

Hearing testing:
Still required where hearing protection devices are required to control employees noise exposure, or if their daily noise exposure exceeds 85 dB over 8 hours or 140 dBC.

2 yearly is still the minimum requirement.

One major change is that previously a person could fail by either 15.7.a (hearing loss worse than prescribed for their age category) or 15.7.b (hearing shift at 3 / 4 / or 6 KHz by more than 10 dB since any previous test).

There is no longer a 15.7.a. As such, no one can actually "fail" their 1st test, as there is noting to compare it to. Regulation 15.7.b has now become Regulation 16.1, with the frequencies and dB shift the same, but it is only compared to their last test, NOT any previous test.

Previously, where a person failed due to an (a) or (b) type hearing problem, it was required that the employer recommend that the person undertake a medical or audiological evaluation.

This has changed. Now, where a 16.1 type loss is detected, the employer MUST PROVIDE an audiological assessment (a medical assessment is no longer an option). This means that where a shift has occurred, the employee MUST undertake an audiological assessment. Simply sending them to a doctor is now no longer an option.

The audiological assessment must determine if the loss is noise related, and if so, the control measures used to limit the employees noise exposure must be reviewed. This can be done by assessing the employees daily noise exposure, (typically using a noise dose meter). The results are then assessed to ensure that the control measures in place are adequate, and appropriate action taken to ensure no further shift should occur.

We can assist you in this area by providing on site audiological assessments for your staff, the noise dosimetry service, and the post service assessment and determination of appropriate action to ensure no further loss is expected.

One further change: the “summary letter” following testing is no longer required to be sent to VWA / Worksafe within 30 days. They do not want these letters any longer. The results must be kept on site.

The archiving or hearing test results (previously 20 years after they leave your company) is no changed to "an appropriate" time. We recommend keeping them for as long as your company operates, as this is the most effective means of determining your actual liability - if any - against any future claims from previous (or current) employees. If in doubt, contact your insurer.

Employee consultation:
Remains the same. Required to consult with H&S reps, workgroup reps, etc.


Training:
The requirement for training still exists. The stipulation regarding training before commencing work in the noise hazard area, and then every 4 years, has been removed. The requirement now states that the training must be performed, with no time lines.

The consequence of this is fairly minimal, employees must still be trained in the required areas, and that training should be documented and records of same maintained by the employer.

Audiometrists approval:
The requirement for a VWA approval number has been removed. Whilst this may seem that now “anyone can do it”, there is still a requirement that the person doing the testing must have the knowledge and experience to be able to perform the tests correctly, and in accordance with all the relevant regulations and standards.

I still believe that the best way of objectively proving this level of competency and knowledge is by the completion of a prescribed “Screening Audiometry” course.

If you would like information of these courses, let me know and I will forward the information to you.

Audiometric Workplace Software:
If you currently do your own screening audiometry, and use the “Workplace Audiometry” software program, an update is available to make it comply with the new regulations.

The cost of the update ranges from nil upwards, depending on how long you have had your software program, and what version it is.

Please contact me so that l can give you the exact details for your system. If you are emailing, make sure you identify the software version. Click on the “Help” then the “about Workplace audiometry” button. The version number is there.

We can help fine tune the program for you, as well as help you install the update. I have a number of form letters already made up to make it easier to bring the program up to speed with the new regs. Let me know if you would like a copy and I’ll email them to you.


Implications:

You should now check to ensure that you have records of the following:

1) A noise assessment has been done of any areas likely to exceed the exposure standard.
2) Screening hearing tests for all staff in those areas, or who are required to wear hearing protection.
3) All staff who have had a shift of greater that 10 dB at 3, 4, or 6 KHz in either ear have had an audiological assessment.
4) Training has been provided to those in noise hazard areas, and those required to wear hearing protection.

Any noise testing or hearing testing you (or our company) have performed already that complied with the previous regulations, will comply with the new regulations.

We can offer all the services required to ensure your compliance, screening audiometry, personal noise dose testing, noise assessments and reports, training, right through to equipment (audiometers, sound proof booths etc) and software – all “on site” for your convenience.

Feel free to contact me at any time so that I assist you in reviewing your current level of compliance, and recommend any action required.

DISCLAIMER:
The information provided herein is of a general nature only, and is not to be used or acted upon without the prior consultation and approval of an appropriately experienced consultant specialising in this area.

Questions & Answers regarding the New Regulations